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Protecting House Compound: Balinese Wall and Gate  

by on Monday, 16 April 2007No Comment | 7,448 views

For Balinese, as other people around the globe, house compound is a private place that has to be separated from public domain and protected from any outside disturbance. Balinese contrive many ways to protect their house compound from outside disturbance whether it is a physical and mystical one. And the first means of protection that protect Balinese house compound from outside disturbance is the wall and the gate.


Wall, called tembok penyengker by Balinese translated literally as “protective wall”. Balinese house compound is a closed area, surrounded by wall. It is usually 1.5 m – 2 m high or high enough to screen the household activity and layout from the view of passerby.

The wall broken only by a gate called “pemesuan”, or “place to go out”. The gate of well to do family can be an imposing affair of brick and carved stone, but more often it consist of two simple pillar of concrete or pre cast concrete gate that can be bought quite cheaply in Kapal village.


In front of the gate on either side are two small shrines called apit lawang, “apit” means “stand on either side” and “lawang” means “gate” or “door”. The shrines are usually made of concrete or combination of brick and porous stone, or merely two little niches excavated in the concrete or brick of the gate, while the simplest are made of split bamboo.

The purpose of apit lawang is to welcome those who come with good intentions and discourage those who come with bad intentions. The shrines act as guardians to the main entrance of the house compound. These shrines are filled with offerings on every holyday but Balinese do not pray here. Sometimes apit lawang are considered to be the places where Bhuta kala (evil spirit / personification of negative force) can get what they need without having to enter the compound and bother the people within.


Directly behind the gate is a small wall that partially blocks the entrance called aling-aling. This wall screens off the interior and stops the evil spirits. Balinese believe that evil spirit cannot readily turn sharp corners and one have to take a sharp turn in order to avoid hitting the aling-aling when entering the house compound. The evil spirit is discouraged from entering the house compound by erecting this aling-aling right in the middle of the entranceway.


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